009 : viewer discretion cannot be advised

on thursday i was luckly enough to give a talk at london’s worst artist-run space lima zulu‘s fourth #LZPKBYOBRSVP pecha-kucha night.

topics on the night included bootstrapping, northern ireland prison protests, max stirner, and my talk ‘Cheap Gadgets in the hands of EVERYBODY’. i had a great time, and it was good to see lots of friends i havent seen AFK in too long.

the talk wasn’t recorded. but for posterity before i forget, i just sat down and gave the pecha kucha in one take to my laptop and empty flat. i embedded it at the bottom of this post. a big thanks to huw for inviting me to talk

006 : programmable robots are now cheaper than human beings – those jobs at the factory aren’t coming back

:: this is a lazy video dump/post with a few thoughts from me trying to pull them together. it is public thinking. feedback welcome ::

meet baxter – the robot with common sense who’s younger siblings will probably make 100m chinese workers unemployed.

he might look a bit stupid & slow now, and im also not sure about his emoticon flat screen face and the look in his eyes… but im also not so sure about what happens when we plug a human prosthesis like the bebionic3 into its ‘hands’?

i mean seriously, the guy above with one of these hands can pick up/crack eggs and shit. i see no reason why these would not be industrially produced to work in factory conditions soon.


the labour movement in china has gathered a lot of pace in the last 18 months. it hasn’t been very well reported or been very visible in the mainstream media here in the UK. but strikes are happening. and some of the are pretty damn large: 4000 sanyo works, 6000 shoe workers, 4000 foxconn workers strike After iPhone 5 Starts Brawls (Updated).

As a consequence it seems foxconn has ordered a fuck ton of robots:


“According to a translated page from the Chinese site Techweb, each robot costs between $20,000 to $25,000, which is over three times the average salary of one worker. However, amid international pressure, Foxconn continues to increase worker salaries with a 25 percent bump occurring earlier this year.”

:: programable robots are now cheaper than human beings ::

and within a few short years will be just as capable in handling the intricate tasks of electrical construction.

so my question i guess is – what then?

  • what then for china and its huge swathes of newly employed and then subsequently unemployed workers?
  • what then for the GM and the US auto industry already struggling to maintain its jobs and compete against the cheap labour in the east?
  • will manufactuing return to europe and other ‘western’ countries it off shored decades ago? – of the costs of electrical goods made in china, almost ⅓ is now transport.

manufacturing might just end up coming back – but the jobs definitely arn’t.

i’m think im going to write a much longer post on global justice and supply chain oppression at some point. and what i think it means for the worker’s struggle vs neoliberalism’s mantra of jobs.jobs.jobs with regard to the full automation of manufacturing.

but for now, what could these future jobs.jobs.jobs be? my best guess, is either like george jetsons:


its destitution and poverty for everybody

005: moolah over marin – space programs, drug cartels & bitcoins

i was talking to a friend on gchat the other day doing our usual routine of dropping random links to each other – some ideas formed and coalesced. tonight i thought i would have a stab at expanding on them and committing them to this poor excuse of a regular blog…and yes the title of this post is a bad dead kennedys pun.


do you know how cheap it is to put a satellite in space?

i didn’t know until it was mentioned the other week on the gweek podcast:


$8,000 for a 0.75-kg tubesat
$12k to $19k for the more familiar 10 x 10cm cubesat

PLUS this includes the cost of putting them into space. and through http://interorbital.com/ you can pay for them by paypal…


this year alone 3 cubesats that have been kickstarted:
the skycube,
kicksat – this is a project that really excites me. its a cool launch platform for little spacecraft called ‘sprite’ – which if combined with the autonomous drone flocking technology that’s being developed – you could do cool things.

with these things getting so cheap: i’m wondering if somebody will do infrastructure:

i.e. you use some kind of Space Wifi to get to a node, and it rebroadcasts to the ground. or message is sent up into space and replicated and held by the satellites on their own clustered mesh, and then sent back down to earth when you want to retrieve it – maybe it would work a bit like bittorrent?

bandwidth is a huge problem – what kind of speeds do you get connecting to a tiny aduino satellite in space essentially over HAM radio frequencies? how can you improve this? ::  a router on a weather balloon? moving the internet on and up to autonomous mesh networks of drones bridging the gap between near space and the ground?

one problem is that they don’t last very long, they fall back to earth and burn up after a short period. but with the price dropping why wouldn’t you just send more up into the mesh?

but if they were there, and you had access to them, what would you do with them?

cryptographic keys in space are the killer app:

it generates a keypair from random cosmic background noise, then it broadcasts your public key back to you, the NSA cannot get them back, after that you would only need the spacenode for authentication moving forward.

fuck. i’m pretty sure this is a doable project now if we had the cash!!


i’d put my bitcoin wallet in space – not so much as an offshore bank account, but an ‘off planet’ one.


who has the cash AND is interested in laundering money and communicating privately ?

drug cartels. (EDIT: and revolutionaries)

10 years ago, if anyone had told you either of the following two facts about 2012 what would you have thought?

1. commercial space launches are here, indeed only today the space x cargo module docked with the ISS, and the list of private spaceflight companies with products in testing and development is extensive.

2. drug cartels have enough money/invested technology, that they build their own GOD DAMN SUBMARINES AND TANKS….


lets put our futurism hats on just for a moment shall we?

in the near future as the cost of putting things in space gets even cheaper and multinationals make the transition to transnationals, i’m pretty sure they will all have their own space programs. think Monsanto moving apocalypse GM/Biotech to test labs in space – if shit fucks up, you send it on a one way course to the sun.

copenhagen suborbitals are already moving forward with their open source space rocket so the plans and specifications of building a space rocket will be out there for all + we as the general public will have more comprehensive understanding of doing things in space. combine this with advances in Aduino chips and other picosat technologies and autonomous open source drone mesh research:

why can’t drug cartels have their own space programs too?

002: young mechanical turks

so it appears i completely failed at blogging every week but ah well. i’ve been super busy.

at the thoughtmenu in july we were lucky enough to have james bridle speak at the second event where he gave a brief talk introducing the idea of ‘Young Mecanical Turks’

due to our 10min talk rule he unfortunately wasn’t able to fully get to the bones of his conclusion, so the talk was left quite opened ended for interpretation and where he was going, i’m not going to layout his argument here as he is much better placed to make that elsewhere.

however I would like to take his talk to its logical end point, work backwards and at high level talk about how we got there. whilst he was talking, the topic brought to mind this short story by marshal brain that my friend razi linked to on Twitter recently.

please read it

:: thoughts ::

> firstly one must assume that the main character in the story is a participant in a software platform, and not an ‘employee’. if he declines a task issued, Manna will provide him another one  - i can imagine there is a small number of vetos an employee is allowed (per day/per week) before they are suspended from the platform and told to go home.

> he is paid per task completed rather than an hourly rate. the software will algorithmically assign enough tasks across his day to earn a living wage.

  • open the cupboard door 30p
  • pull out bucket 20p
  • fill it with water 25p

> with each small and mundane task he performs before he can start, he has to accept a eula of millions of lines of leagalease covering the terms of employment for that specific task.

> by making the user accept a eula with every task, the employer can calculate the amout of insurance need to provided cover to the employee via a task sperciffic risk assessment. (Micro insurance of this kind became common practice after zipcar introduced Google’s self driving car, which requires you to buy insurance on a per journey basis – as self driving cars are MUCH safer than manual drivers their insurence premiums went through the roof)

> there is a long term gamification element in the platform that rewards users XP and allows them to choose and open up skill trees for training purposes (points and skills accumulated on one platform are not transferable to any another)

> bonus points are rewarded if employees complete ‘market tasks’ these are open jobs that are in the job pipe and need doing but have yet to become urgent enough that the software issues an instruction to go do it. the task would start at say £1/£2 and go down in price as time moves on as it becomes more urgent/pressing. employees can bid against each other on ‘market’ tasks: with the job going to the employee that bids the lowest before the time runs out. of course if a young mecanical turk enjoys doing the task the can choose the ‘queue it now’ option which ends the auction instantly at the lowest price possible (bottom end price set by the Manna algorithm) and it gets added to their queue.

> as employees work in the system/on the platform over time they level up and gain accsess to things like days off, dental care and eventually healthcare.

:: workers rights do not exisit in this world ::


as companies like task rabbit and amazons mechanical turk evolve and combine, the mechanics and legal framework that employment law provides will not be able to move quick enough to keep up with the rate of change. i think the semantic point i made about people being participants in a software platform and not ‘employees’ is key here. which is why it is so important that we fight for universal human rights both in the physical sphere and the digital. our identities and personalities are already exploited by a network used by nearly a billion people.

let’s not let the exploitation of our immaterial labour become material.